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Tens of thousands of Iranians have crowded the streets of Tehran to protest shoulder-to-shoulder with others marginalized by last week’s presidential election. Despite the Iranian government’s best efforts to curb criticism and the increasingly heated opposition rallies and to quash coverage by journalists, images and stories have found a worldwide audience.

While combing through images of the protests, we were struck by the beauty of the Azadi Tower, which marks the entrance of the Iranian capital. Architecturally signifigant on its own, Iran’s “Freedom Tower” has become a rallying point for recent protests and will likely live on as a reminder of how ugly, messy and beautiful the fight for true liberty is.  To celebrate the struggle for freedom in Iran, DesignCrave looks at the architectural significance and history of Iran's Freedom Tower, the Azadi Tower in Tehran.

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Then called the Shahyad Monument, the tower was unveiled in 1971 to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire and to mark a the progress made by the Pahlavi dynasty, which ruled as a monarchy until the Ayatollah Khomeini-led revolution in 1979.

The 148 foot-tall tower was designed by architect Hossein Amanat, whose concept won a state-sponsored competition to design the monument. The tower design was heavily influenced by Islamic and Persian architecture styles and symbology used by Amanat’s Bahá'í Faith, a religious practice persecuted by the current Iranian government.

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Clad entirely in cut marble, the tower is built around four giant columns, which reach and peak to form large archways. A faceted dome inspired by vaulted Persian buildings covers the top floor of the tower. Underneath the monument — which rests in the middle of a busy plaza, the Azadi cultural complex — are gardens and fountains landscaped to pay tribute to those of ancient Persia.

The Azadi Tower has been an Iranian icon for almost 40 years, but recent events unfolding around the landmark might bring more meaning to an architectural symbol named for freedom.  [thanks to Nico Pitney and the HuffingtonPost for introducing the Azadi Tower to us through their brilliant coverage of the current struggles for freedom in Iran]

Azadi Tower Gallery

[main image via daylife, others via flickr users parapet, th0mi, parapet again, taario and the huffingtonpost]